Autopsy of a Loss

By Thomas Kennedy

Watching the news coverage on Election Day was shocking. By eleven o'clock, the mood in the room was somber. The crowd that had gathered to watch the coverage in the Miami neighborhood of Little Haiti that night could see the writing on the wall. Donald Trump was on his way to the presidency.

The overwhelming perception of both the public and the media prior to that evening had been that Hillary Clinton would win, and the general election would be almost like her coronation. Yet against all odds, Donald Trump took over the Republican Party, waging a one-man campaign that did away with the Bush/Clinton political dynasties and eventually culminated in his victory on election night.

As a former undocumented immigrant whose parents are still in this country without papers, I gave my all to stop a potential fascist from becoming president. I worked in voter registration campaigns during the primaries and get-out-the-vote operations during the general election. I birddogged politicians who aligned themselves with Donald Trump's xenophobic rhetoric, and I fought to uphold the issues that matter to our communities. Unfortunately, my efforts and those of others who worked tirelessly alongside me came up short, but not due to lack of trying or passion.

The truth is that most folks in our community were blindsided by Trump's win, and I believe that this is because we live in our own bubble. We were not able to look past our own communities and get into the mindset of white working class America.

Donald Trump used a populist message to drive the point that the leaders of both parties had forgotten the woes of the average middle class American. With promises to end unpopular free trade policies, curtail lobbying and special interest influence, and deport undocumented immigrants who were blamed and scapegoated for both increased competition and decreased economic opportunity in a globalized economy, Trump managed to win over a significant portion of white working class voters.

We've had candidates before who have attempted to get elected by appealing to our fears and base instincts. The fear of the other has been used time and time again to scapegoat communities for political gain. After living 11 years as an undocumented immigrants and another 5 years as a permanent resident, I had managed to become a citizen right in time to vote in this election. To cast my vote and still see Donald Trump win using these type of populist and racist tactics has been deeply demoralizing and discouraging, yet I have learned valuable lessons from this election that I'll carry with me throughout these next four years. It is the conversations and outreach we take part in now across communities that will lay the groundwork into making Donald Trump a one term president.

Across the country, immigrant rights groups, congregations, and community organizations are developing workshops on community protection, information sessions about navigating potential changes in immigration and healthcare laws, and meetings to come together to strategize and plan for the future.

But these groups cannot do it alone. It's up to each and every one of us to join the fight so that we can build an effective resistance against this new American nightmare.

To get involved in organizing efforts in your community, check out Reform Immigration for America's extensive list of local and national immigrant rights groups across the country, and text JUSTICE to 69866 for important immigration updates and alerts.

Thomas Kennedy is a writing fellow for the Center for Community Change Action.